Sunday, June 29, 2008
Suicide leaves loved ones to grapple with the most painful unanswered question: why? Friends and colleagues have expressed their shock, one of them saying that Korshunova had appeared to be "on top of the world." Other reports have pointed to the model's online social networking pages as a possible clue to her emotional suffering.
Our thoughts are with Korshunova's friends and family as they deal with this tragic loss of such a young and vibrant life.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK
Thursday, June 26, 2008
First of all, are people actually shopping for surgeons on YouTube? Don't answer that. Every other ad on television and the worldwide interwebs is for some drug to make you happier, thinner, sleepier, etc., so I guess it makes sense that plastic surgeons are jumping on the advertising and viral marketing money train.
Sometimes I stay awake to watch The Golden Girls on Lifetime at 1 a.m. (yes, I know a second episode is on at 1:30, and sometimes I watch that one, too). Let me tell you, there are some super scary commercials that air in that time slot. Last night I was treated to the Ped Egg foot exfoliator ad, in which a parade of satisfied customers slough the nasty dead skin off their feet and dump the shavings into (Unlined! My eyes!) trash cans. But the one that really haunts my dreams is for a local plastic surgeon who offers financing for plastic surgery. "Bad credit or no credit? No problem! We'll still suck out your fat, and we'll charge you loan shark interest rates to boot!" Okay, I'm paraphrasing a little.
Maybe this is what was bound to happen as capitalism, medical advances, beauty obsessions, and a crappy health care system collide. But I really don't like the looks of it.
"Coming Soon to YouTube: My Facelift" New York Times
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
"Done with the trainer, I cancelled my trainer...I refuse to do the whole diet, fitness, style thing anymore," Snow says. "I know what I like, I know what makes me feel good, and that's just what I do. I think more than anything, the thing I've learned in being here is that everything else doesn't matter as long as you're taking care of yourself and you're having fun." [People] via [The-F-Word]
Monday, June 23, 2008
Despite her rising star status, Violet is a down-to-earth character struggling to find her own voice and develop meaningful relationships and friendships. Meanwhile, everyone in her life seems to have their opinions about what she should do and how she should act. Most real girls aren't showered with designer swag and ushered through VIP entrances like Violet is, but I think most readers will relate to Violet's quest to be true to herself.
One of my favorite plot lines (spoiler alert!) is in Violet By Design, when Violet talks to the press about the insane pressures models face to be thin (her quotes sounded strikingly similar to what real-life top model Coco Rocha had to say earlier this month at the CFDA Health Initiative discussion). As a result of her candor, she is chosen to be the face of fictional designer-of-the-moment Mirabella's campaign. "Violet believes that all girls should have a positive body image, and that we in the fashion industry have a responsibility to our young fans. Our fall campaign will embrace the mission of self confidence, health, and 'keeping it real,'" Mirabella announces to a crowd of reporters at a press conference. Behind the scenes, she tells Violet's agent that Violet needs to lose five pounds.
Does this kind of hypocrisy exist in the fashion industry? Yep, absolutely. In the universe of YA fiction, Violet is the perfect candidate to expose it. In the real world, I can think of a few dedicated power players who could do the job well.
Related: NPR: Three Books for Teens Who Hate to Read
Friday, June 20, 2008
Moments of Body Zen, Part II: A Hamster off its Wheel
I was pretty sure my legs were going to explode when I pulled my ski boots off at the end of my second day on skis last season back in December—it was only my second day on skis in more than four years. The first had been two days prior, when I had made my way through a heavy, slushy, slow snow. I found myself tired but exhilarated; sweaty but, oddly enough, in shape.
When I got home a few hours later on that second day, I didn’t crawl crying up to bed at 8 p.m. as I thought I might. I was out until midnight having margaritas with friends, telling them that I’d just had the best couple of days ever. My cheeks were scarlet and still warm from the wind, my legs were somehow in tact, and the adrenaline rush I got from hurtling my body down a mountain was wearing off nicely.
I felt like a hamster that had finally been let off its wheel. All of the hours on the boring elliptical machine, the thousands of sit-ups and crunches, the grueling spinning classes I put myself through, the countless runs around the park…here was the payoff. In my mind, no longer did all those hours just add up and go around and around; instead, I envisioned how they had built my muscles, made my lungs stronger, and propelled me down the mountain to catch the last chair for one last run.
Listen, these words look really strange to me as I type them. I was that girl in gym class who’d fake sick on the day of the mile-long run. I was active as a kid, but I was more likely to win MVP of riding my bike around my neighborhood (pretending it was the horse I so wanted, no lie) than of the soccer field or basketball court. Organized sports terrified me—what if, on the day of the big game, I just didn’t feel like playing? I finally gave in and joined a gym four years ago because I left my illustrious waitressing career for my first desk job and all the pent up energy left me unable to sleep at night.
Mostly, though, I started working out because I had the time and common sense. Okay, I started sleeping again, I had more energy during the day, and I felt a lot better about my body, even though I didn’t notice it changing much. Also, my New England-bred, Puritanical sense of productivity and accomplishment was satisfied a bit more than back when I was napping three hours a day.
I wish that everyone would have something that makes them feel the way I do when I ski: wholly grateful that my body is well enough to comply with my demands. I’m also seeking out more things that give me that same sense of gratefulness I experienced skiing—I felt it a little recently when I was bodysurfing at the beach. Until then, when I’m feeling lazy and tired and one spin class away from the edge of reason, I just think snow.
Thursday, June 19, 2008
Allison Keiley is a web producer and sometimes-writer living in Brooklyn, New York. She blogs (more infrequently than she’d like) at ayjaykay.vox.com.
Moments of Body Zen, Part I: My Thyroid, Myself
After my yearly check up last February, my blood work came back indicating that my thyroid levels were borderline low. I went back to the doctor to have more blood drawn for further testing that would show whether I had an officially lazy thyroid.
Despite the possibility that I was potentially facing a lifelong health issue that can only be battled with seriously scary drugs and could even affect my ability to have babies, this was music to my ears. I find it super easy to gain weight. I find it super hard to lose it.
Might I actually be a skinny person, hidden underneath this body?
“Wow,” I thought, “Skinny.” As in truly, meant to be, eat whatever the hell I want, forgo the gym membership, buy a whole new wardrobe skinny. I was excited. It would be a whole new me. And so easy, right? Go to the doctor, discover chronic condition, get some drugs, get skinny, live the life I always knew I was meant to live...
Whoa. Here’s where the crazy train of those thoughts screeched to a halt before, as Ozzy sings, going off the rails.
I’ve worked really hard to learn to love my body, as skinny as it’s not and will never be. At many points in my life I’ve been unhappy about my body and have felt like a hulk whose woman-ness is just so very on display among a sea of beautifully androgynous, skinny girls. People who are kind would describe me as voluptuous, people who think they’re kind would say “big-boned,” and people who have their own issues would call me fat. I’m really lucky because my friends and family just call me smart and beautiful.
Back in the doctor’s office, I was scaring myself, growing woozy from the blood loss as visions of string bikinis danced through my head.
Everyone, of course, fantasizes about what it might be like to lead a different life. But the leaps in my fantasies were scary—from a new dress size to a new life in so few steps. The obvious link in my mind between thinness and happiness made me feel like the years I spent learning to appreciate my body had been erased.
Here’s the thing—I already have this life that revolves around those amazing friends and family members, where I do work I love, and find myself laughing and feeling really lucky like, all the time. Things can get really crappy and stressful, and I’m finally realizing that my pants size has nothing to do with it.
The doctor finished up my blood test and I bent over to put my head between my knees. The blood rushed back to my head and I thought—finally, with some clarity—about the things that I never want to be easy anyway, like eating well and exercising, but more on that later.
A few weeks later, I found out that my thyroid is perfectly normal, adding another check in my mental tally of reasons to appreciate my body. Besides, now I won’t have to worry so much about putting these child-bearing hips to good use.
Have you experienced a moment of body zen? Care to share?
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
The study found that almost half (47 percent) of the major and minor characters on these shows were of average weight, 38 percent were below average, and 15 percent above. And while this isn't a completely accurate reflection of reality, we are talking about TV here--and it's whole lot more body diversity than what we see in prime time.
The bad news is that while kids' shows are doing a better job at getting away from the stick-thin ideal, there are still plenty of tired old stereotypes about weight. The study showed that 25% of overweight characters on these shows had no friends, and black characters were three times more likely than white characters to be depicted as overweight. [Canada.com]
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Nian Fish of KCD (whose Q & A was our very first blog post almost a year ago) is sick of the ultra-thin look. "Size zero. What is that?" she asked the audience, which included Anna Wintour and Donna Karan. "A size zero means you're invisible. I think we have brainwashed ourselves into believing that is beautiful. It's time to admit that we've all been drinking the Kool-Aid."
James Scully has been an outspoken advocate for reform in fashion, so I was happy to see him step up to the microphone. As one of the most sought-after casting agents in the industry, he knows that he and his colleagues have a responsibility to understand the power of their words and the tremendous influence they can have in young models' lives. "Magali talks about how her life would have taken a different turn if she had received caring support instead of harsh words about her weight," he said. "I think about that every day. Let's stop treating models like greyhounds we plan to shoot after a race. We have to remember we are dealing with real people who have real feelings."
Michael Kors also reminded everyone to treat models as humans, not mannequins. He challenged designers to "stay away from child-size clothes unless you're designing for children,"
pointing out that fashion influences the Hollywood aesthetic--and when celebrities starve themselves to fit into sample sizes, it has a dangerous and far-reaching influence on girls and women everywhere.
Model Coco Rocha did not hold back. She said that a day in the life of most models involves an obsession with staying thin, a constant hunger, and cutting remarks like "We don't want you to be anorexic. We just want you to look like you are." She admitted that an agent once advised her to throw up after meals. Last year she gave in to the pressure and took diuretics--a decision she seriously regrets. After consulting other models, she offered four recommendations:
1. To designers: make your fit models bigger (i.e. make your clothes bigger). When zippers don't zip up at castings, models suffer unbearable humiliation.
2. Keep working to raise awareness about the long-term effects of eating disordered behavior. If young models knew the permanent damage they were causing to their bodies, they might think twice.
3. Agencies need to be closely linked with medical professionals, including nutritionists and eating disorder specialists.
4. Provide healthier food at shows.
I left the discussion with a hopeful outlook. Go ahead, call me the eternal optimist. Magali and I have been working to raise awareness about eating disorders and body image issues in the fashion industry since 1999. For many, it might seem as though change is happening at a snail's pace. But in the span of our work together, the last two years have felt like giant leaps forward. More and more people are finally speaking the truth. We need that kind of honesty. We can't get to a healthier place without it.
Monday, June 9, 2008
For the last nine years, Christian Boeving has been a model for over-the-counter dietary supplements in Iovate’s MuscleTech division. Now the company is refusing to renew his contract after Boeving admitted on camera that his insanely toned body is not just the result of powders and potions--it might also have something to do with the steroids he's been injecting since the age of sixteen.
As the film's director, Christopher Bell, points out (and demonstrates himself), the dietary supplement industry is full of Photoshop trickery and extreme behind-the-scenes behavior. Everyone knows it happens, but no one is supposed to talk about it. Boeving just learned that lesson the hard way. Take heart, big guy. After all, Kate Moss got fired when her coke habit was exposed. That rebuke only lasted a minute, though. Now she's earning more than ever before. [New York Times]
Related: Bigger, Stronger, Faster: The Side Effects of Being an American
Meet Christopher Bell. That's him in the before and after photos. In one of the most compelling scenes of his movie, Bigger, Stronger, Faster, Bell shows the audience just how easy it is to manufacture and market a dietary supplement in the United States. He orders the ingredients, mixes them up in his kitchen, pours them into capsules, and works with a photographer to create an ad.
"Look as sad and depressed as you can," says the photographer as he snaps the first photo. Then Bell gets waxed and Photoshopped. Suddenly, he's "shredded." No need for FDA approval. No restrictions on his completely manipulated advertisement. It's all 100% legal.
While Bigger, Stronger, Faster focuses primarily on steroid use in America, it is ultimately an exploration of our culture's confusing messages about being the best. Our bodies and our spending habits are certainly evidence of our desperation to be extraordinary. Women are on a quest for thinness and eternal youth. Men feel more and more pressure to have rock hard muscles and six-pack abs. Some of Bell's subjects are extreme examples (Gregg Valentino's enormous biceps are disturbing, to put it mildly), but this is no freak show. It's a film about how our supermodel, supercelebrity, and superathlete worship is making it increasingly difficult to accept--and be happy--with ourselves.
Bigger, Stronger, Faster is open in these theaters.
Friday, June 6, 2008
This week, Aetna agreed to expand its coverage of anorexia and bulimia (which had previously been limited to 20 outpatient visits a year and 30 days of inpatient treatment) and pay $250,000 in reimbursements to a group of New Jersey families who were previously denied. The settlement was the result of a class action lawsuit. It still needs to be approved by a judge and could face opposition. We'll keep you updated on the story, but for now we are celebrating this as a victory. [WSJ Law Blog]
Wednesday, June 4, 2008
What are your thoughts on the model health debate today, nearly two years after your walk down the runway for Gaultier?
Often, the focus tends to be entirely on the external. Granted, modeling is about the physical, but all the media tends to focus on as a general rule when it comes to model’s health is how 'thin' a model may appear. There are women who are prone to being thin, just as there are women who are prone to being fat. That is not to negate the reality that anorexia and bulimia exist amongst both models and society at large.
Anorexia is a disorder primarily associated with adolescence (and also has links to not wanting to grow up), so by employing such young women, virtually children (even 13 year olds in some cases!), then one may expect to witness these disorders more closely associated with the fashion industry, which selects models from the group most commonly affected by the disorder. Naomi Campbell was just 15 years old when she got her start. What needs to be asked is not only why the beauty ideal at present insists upon such thin extremes, but also why we are using children to market to women? And how this too adds to a feeling of inadequacy in how people feel about their looks.
Media does the same when it comes to plus-size people. The general reason one gets as to why there is not more representation of curvier folks within modern media is that inclusion would be equivalent to acceptance, and acceptance would then equal condoning, which would mean they support alleged ill health. The odd dichotomy is that whilst people like myself are banned due to the purported notion we will somehow 'promote' being unhealthy, we are besieged with media saturated with imagery of Britney Spears, Nicole Richie, Paris Hilton, Kate Moss and Lindsay Lohan. How these women represent good health is somewhat beyond me. Not that I look to discredit or demean them, it's merely impossible for me to wrap my head around the media’s indisputable hypocrisy.
People may look at me and deem me 'unhealthy' at first sight, yet were I to ask you, 'Is every thin person healthy?', you would scoff at such a frivolous notion. You can't tell by looking at me that I do not smoke and I never have, I do not drink alcohol and I never have, and I do not take recreational drugs and I never have--just as you can’t tell by looking at a thin person that they may do all of the above. So I reject the judgment of perceived health, and frankly find it patronizing, as more often than not, merely by virtue of size, I am expected to disclose my health to the majority of TV and radio interviewers. Though personally, I wouldn’t dream of asking them to drop down and give me 50 push-ups or casually make public their personal health history to me, a total stranger.
What is almost completely ignored in my opinion, is mental health. The current beauty standard is so inaccessible that the vast majority of Western society is displeased with their looks to the extent they reach to extreme measures to attempt to fit in, or feel better about themselves. There was a program I saw, I believe it was entitled The Swan or something like that, where each 'unattractive' contestant went through a process of having their teeth bleached white and having liposuction, and all of them across the board seemed to need breast implants. What is sad about this cookie cutter approach to beauty is that the individual is lost amongst the commonality. Each and every person has a beauty unique unto them. The more one comes to accept oneself, the better she/he is able to revel in her/his own unique beauty! When we start to address this in fashion, then we, as a society, can begin to feel better about ourselves and celebrate our perceived imperfections, versus eradicating them in attempts to adhere to the modern beauty standard, which seems more and more narrow, less and less accessible.
[P]eople's rejection of their looks drives capitalism. The more people do not accept themselves, the more potions, and lotions, and surgeries etc. they invest in so that they might have the power that is beauty.
The mission of our work is to get fashion and beauty professionals on board with the idea of promoting healthy beauty. How would you define healthy beauty, and what do you think is the industry's biggest obstacle to getting there?
I would define healthy beauty by stealing a quote from Christian Dior: “Zest is the secret of all beauty. There is no beauty that is attractive without zest.” I think we are beginning to see some change afoot as a backlash to mainstream fashion with people like Leslie [Hall], Beth Ditto, and Joy Nash. The birth of You Tube has allowed for people to make personal statements to a much wider audience and this has made for something of a revolution.
The biggest obstacle to the promotion of healthy beauty within the fashion industry is the dependence fashion has on advertising. Since magazines are dependent on the advertisers to exist, this beholds them to adhering to what has become the yawningly boring average--thin, white, tall and young. The reason being is that ads are so costly that they fear taking risks and as such, the vision of beauty is preserved as not only unattainable (to promote the use of the materials being sold) but also staid, since they are afraid to rock the boat and want only what sells.
What are you working on now?
I am always busy with many projects. Last week I modeled in a Renault ad. Yesterday I had a wonderful opportunity to dance in a music video for an up and coming French band, the Scarlet Queens. I was thrilled to be included in their clip Rock N Roll Girl...It's great to have bands bucking the norm, much like the photo shoot I did with the equally cool French band FANCY. I have an upcoming role in a French film featuring Vincent Lagaffe. I continue to both shoot and film plus-size women for my impending website as well as to create original music for videos I am beginning to edit, which feature plus-size women. The French film I starred in, AVIDA, (which went to both the Cannes and Tribeca film festivals), has just come out on DVD in America through Cinema Epoch. Tonight I am off to dinner with Edmond Boubil, the designer of the French plus size-clothing companies Ronde de Nuit and Umberto Monza, to discuss shooting for them. Definitely a busy bee!
Our Interview with Velvet D'Amour Part I
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
You walked the runway for Gaultier in the midst of a heated international debate about underweight models in the fashion industry. How did that collaboration come about? What kind of statement did you want to make? How did people treat you backstage?
My runway appearance for Gaultier came about as he was casting for his 30-year retrospective. I had already done runway the previous season for John Galliano, consequently, my French model agency, Contraband, sent me to the casting.
Jean Paul Gaultier had used a plus sized model back in the 80’s (and thereafter!), thus my preliminary casting was in order to appear in his retrospective. Once I made it past the initial casting, I was sent to the second casting conducted by JPG himself. He seemed very taken by the images in my book, and we had a nice chat about philosophies of beauty as well. It was wonderful to speak with such an amazing talent that I had always revered.
As to what statement I wanted to make, my quest is to diversify notions of modern beauty, and I knew my inclusion would spark debate and get people talking if nothing else. JPG has been clear on the statement he was making--that beauty takes many forms. He had also included another model from Contraband’s Master’s division, who is a senior citizen. There were some who viewed my appearance as ‘farcical’, or token, but when would any appearance of a genuinely fat person NOT be viewed as such? People of size are utterly banned from any mainstream media (other then the headless, junk food munching, obese [people] witnessed on the evening news every night). There are few, if any, references of inclusion beyond ridicule.
If people are only exposed to imagery of fat people as jokes in movies, TV, etc., then that limits our perception to degradation. So what then is the solution? Not to take the opportunity to proudly embrace my curves in a global venue? One must take advantage of these rare opportunities when presented by people who are willing to take the risk on you. I had utter confidence in both Galliano and Gaultier to represent me in a fashion inclusive of their impeccable style, and I knew their intent to be positive. I don’t think it is so ludicrous for people of such immense creativity and broadminded natures to witness beauty in what mainstream people may have blinders to.
As to backstage, it’s funny because often people seem to perceive that behind the scenes was some sort of Showgirls atmosphere, with skinny teen models spiking my Evian, or bashing on the fatty, when in fact, everyone was quite sublime. As I am both a photographer and a model, I am accustomed to being around models and thus I don’t find it an intimidating atmosphere in the least.
Whilst models are esteemed by the general public to have it all, merely by the luck of the gene-pool, (and likewise, professed to have an attitude to accompany that), they more often than not grew up equally outcast by virtue of extreme height and thinness. Thus I find models tend to be quite sympathetic and kind/curious for the most part and this certainly held true backstage at the runway shows. Its an eclectic, buzzing atmosphere.
What do you think of the term "plus-size"?
Good question. I doubt it was easy coming up with a term to encompass clothes designated for people who are purportedly larger then the current norm, in an era when being so is hardly considered popular.
I recall as a fat child having my Mom take me to the HUSKY store, and that seemed rather humiliating at the time. I had initially pictured some Alaskan dogsled hideaway, but soon found myself amidst frighteningly outdated décor, with racks of polyester knit bellbottoms in puke green, or ‘KICK ME HARD’ red, guaranteed to ensure a wedgie or two, in a era where you were nothing if you didn’t wear straight cut Levi’s.
I am sure its origins were well intentioned though, and it’s certainly better then Negative-size, ay?
Velvet D'Amour on MySpace